From around 1,00,000 a century ago the number of tigers in the wild has been reduced to just about 3200 in 2010. With such an alarming decline in the number of tigers, the governments of the tiger range countries have joined hands along with the World Bank to save the majestic big cat of the Asian Jungle. St. Petersburg in Russia played host to an unprecedented event - the first ever high-level summit meeting to save an endangered species- The Tiger. The International Tiger Conservation Forum meeting which was organized by the government of the Russian Federation in association with the World Bank from November 21st to 24th was the culmination of nearly a two year long consultation process between the 13 tiger range countries to evolve a global strategy to save the big cat as part of the Global Tiger Initiative of the World Bank. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin along with leaders from India, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam signed the St. Petersburg Declaration affirming their resolve to save wild tigers from extinction.
As a part of the declaration the International Tiger Conservation Forum meeting endorsed the Global Tiger Recovery programme which aims to double the number of these iconic cats by the year 2022 from the present number of 3200.The Global Tiger Recovery programme integrates country specific recovery plans with global efforts to tackle trans-boundary challenges. With nearly a 40 percent reduction in Tiger habitat area in the last ten years alone, the country specific recovery plans will focus on habitat management and sustainable conservation practices in protected areas to give the tigers not just a chance to live but also to multiply. These country specific efforts will be reinforced by global efforts to curb illegal trade in tiger parts by stepping up enforcement at national and global levels along smuggling routes in addition to increasing penalties and conviction rates for poachers and those involved in trafficking of tiger parts. The decades long experience of India and its expertise gained through Project Tiger has been a valuable input into the GTRP. India played an important role in the process of the finalization of the 12 year Global Tiger Recovery programme which is expected to cost around 350 million US dollars.
According to the World Wildlife Fund the biggest success of the summit was the promise of providing new funds of nearly 127 million dollars to support the Global Tiger Recovery plan. In addition to this the World Bank has offered a $100 million loan package to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh to support tiger conservation work in their countries while the Global Environment Facility has committed 12 million US dollars in new funding to regional tiger projects that show benefits for biodiversity and reductions in carbon emissions. The initial funding commitments have largely been made by the tiger range countries and they have decided to meet again during the next six months with the hope of securing more funds from the international community to finalise the long-term financing of the recovery plan in July next year. The 13 tiger range countries have also decided to reconvene the forum in December 2011 to review the working of the 12-year-plan.
The Director General of the World Wildlife Fund Jim Leapes described the St.Petersburg Tiger summit as "a turning point in the effort to save one of the world's best-loved animals". Mr. Laepes added that "We've never before seen this kind of political support to save a single species. Here in St. Petersburg we have seen political will at the highest level - heads of government committing themselves to saving the tiger, and laying out concrete plans." The St.Petersburg Declaration sends out a message of strong political will to do whatever it takes to eliminate the threats facing the Tiger and save it from the brink of extinction.
C. Senthil Rajan, AIR correspondent, Dhaka